Stephen Donaldson Analysis Part Two – Findings

Here is a summary of my findings, I’ll add the detailed analysis in a future post.


The extracts are taken from fiction novels and the purpose of the text is for readers to be entertained by them. Both are from the opening pages of their respective novels and hence the experiential content is the setting of the frame for the story that is about to be told. Both texts use some specialised terms:

Text 1 has some medical terminology:

(14) Visual Surveillance of Extremities

(13, 19) V.S.E

Text 2 has specialised terms from the semantic field of geology:

(13) orogeny, tectonic shifts


The texts are written in the third person (omniscient), that can be evidenced by the use of mental processes realised by verb phrases and abstract participants realised by noun phrases:

text 1: (13) he concentrated, his will

text 2: (13) mind (16) awareness, he recognized


Both texts are in the written mode and there is no interaction between the writer and the readers – both are in separate environments and there is no possibility of immediate feedback. The graphical channel is used (i.e. processed by the eye).

Use of complex noun modification and modifier complexes:

Text 2 has a higher percentage of complex noun modification than text1 (see Appendix 1, Table 11). However, both texts contain complex noun modification and specifically postmodifier noun complexes. The complexes in text 1 appear to occur regularly and occur on lines 1, 6, 8, and 9 and then reoccur on line 14. Other forms of noun modification also occur on lines 11, 12, 13 and 18 and include premodification through the use of describers and classifiers.

Text 2 has a different pattern, where most of the postmodifier noun complexes occur nearer to the end of the extract on lines 13, 15, 16, 17 and 18. In addition, text 2 uses much simpler forms of postmodification early on which are realised through prepositional phrases and start with the preposition ‘of’: of Andelain, (2) of eons, (10) of eternity. These simpler qualifiers seem to start on line 1 and then reappear throughout until line 10 after which point the aforementioned postmodifier complexes start to appear as qualifiers.

I have concluded that there is a possible literary function for these patterns in postmodifier complexes. This is because their occurrence coincides with intense events within the narrative. In text 1 they occur when a child is in possible danger. Here they appear to serve the purpose of intensifying the reader experience by providing a lot of detail about the event in the story. In text 2 there is a similar function as the narrative culminates in an intense depiction of events so too does the appearance of postmodifier complexes increase in complexity with the final qualifier appearing in the below form (modifier types in bold and curly brackets):

“But their shadows {ed} paled {prepositional} in the fervid gleaming {prepositional} of Loric’s krill, {adjective} bright {prepositional} with wild magic—

and {prepositional} in the ghostly luminescence {prepositional} of the four High Lords {relative} whose presence {ed} formed the boundaries {prepositional} of Covenant’s crisis, and {prepositional} of Linden Avery’s.”

As for the simpler qualifiers used early on in text 2 then they may have the function of easing the reader into the book due to their lower lexical density as compared to the later modifier complexes. Ironically the lexical density could possibly be a reason for using postmodifier complexes early on in text 1, i.e. to capture the reader’s attention through detailed descriptions of events (which many first time author’s aim to do).

Lexical Density

Text 2 has a higher lexical density than text 1 (Appendix 1, table 10) probably because there is frequent use of modifier complexes in text 2. Both texts have a higher lexical density than the fiction register in the OU-BNC which is 45.8. Text 1 has a value of 48 and text 2 has one of 52. Again this is possibly due to the frequent use of modifier complexes in both texts, however in order to be certain the OU-BNC texts must be analysed for comparison.

Lexical Chain Analysis

Text 1 has five chains; they are all concerned with the characters in the narrative and their responses to one another and chain (e) forms an ongoing metaphor. The long simultaneous chains indicate the author is focussed on the characters in the narrative and their interactions with the main character. The author’s use of lexis in this fashion seems to indicate his method of introducing the main character.

Text 2 has four chains and two of them are concerned with an ongoing transformation in the main character. If fact they contain a tightly focussed lexis of repetition and synonymy, for example:

Chain (a) contains: Eons, time, millennia

The chains in text 2 seem to contain more related nouns per sentence than those in text 1 and that is an indication that the author seems more focussed in his writing in text 2 (i.e. writing more about less). Again the chains occur simultaneously yet the occurrences of repeated or synonymous words in chain (d) have more sentences between them (i.e. there is more whites space between the top and the bottom of chain (d)).  And this could serve the purpose of introducing a new character without interrupting the without interrupting the main flow of the current reader experience.

Reference Chain analysis

The reference chains in both texts are unambiguous and promote lexical cohesion in the texts and support the findings based on the lexical chain analysis. Interestingly, in text 1, when naming the main character for the first time the writer uses synonymy to refer to previous traits of the character in order to link the name to the character (without naming the character directly):


the spasmodic snarl > a wild grimace


machinery > mechanical


(Appendix 1, Table 4)


Metaphor analysis

Both texts contain ongoing metaphoric language that creates a thread of lexical items that contribute to lexical cohesion in the texts. Text 1 has a metaphor of machinery and text 2 of earthquakes. The lexis for each respective metaphor modifies nouns used to identify the main character in each text:

Text 1:

(1)   like a mechanical derelict


Text 2:

(15) with fault-lines and potential slippage

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